Ryan Kesler’s absence could be seen as a blessing in disguise for Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. These two young players are filling Kesler’s role well, rebounding from mediocre and uneventful seasons. Raymond has never been the same since his back injury in the 2011 playoffs and Hansen’s career-high goal count is at 16. But currently these two players are providing the Canucks with more than one trustworthy scoring line and doing it with a gritty work ethic.
“What he did was he took our work ethic and our desperation to another level,” head coach Alain Vigneault told The Province of Hansen after the Canucks’ game against the Edmonton Oilers last Monday. “He took it up another notch and the team followed suit. He was one of the key forces in my mind in changing the momentum of that game.”
That game was the first in which Hansen found the back of the net, as he scored the Canucks’ first goal to break the Oilers’ 2-0 lead. The Canucks eventually came back to win it in overtime and it was Hansen who sparked the comeback. Having gone only one game this season without a shot on net, Hansen has been an offensive threat, now with two goals and four assists. His plus-6 is one of the best ratings on the team, and with two goals in the past three games, both management and the coaching staff are finally getting him to flourish. Many people do not realize that Hansen is one of the best Danish hockey players in the world, being the first Danish citizen to play and register a point in an NHL playoff game and having played for Team Denmark nine times.
Raymond does not have the same national team credentials, but is rebounding from a near-fatal injury and a dismal 2011-12 season. Currently on a three game point streak, Raymond has shown prowess on the power-play; three of his four goals are power-play goals, the most of any Canuck. The Canucks’ power0play is at a mediocre 16.1%, despite Raymond’s success. Vigneault has praised his players for their ability to adapt to line shuffling, so a new top power-play unit might be something to consider, especially since Raymond has three of the Canucks’ nine goals on the man advantage. Raymond has shown resiliency as well. Against Calgary on Saturday night he was hit in the face with a puck and had to leave the ice (“He’s starting to look like a hockey player. He got a couple of stitches. Pretty face, pretty boy, it’s almost over,” remarked Vigneault). However, he came back with the same speed and pressure he had before, with several scoring chances.
Hansen and Raymond have two important things in common – they are young and they are fast. At 26 and 27 years old respectively, they still have many years of hockey ahead of them. They also fore-check and back-check well. Having players like the Sedins, who are elite play-makers, and players like Zack Kassian, Dale Weise and Aaron Volpatti, who are known for their physicality, make Hansen and Raymond’s speed an important asset to balance out the team.
Furthermore, both players have adapted quickly to the sudden start of the short season compared to other players on the team, possibly because of their short stints in Europe during the lockout. Raymond played only two games for Orebro of the Allsvenksan before returning to the NHL, but enjoyed his time there nonetheless and got both a goal and a chance to warm up for the new season. Hansen played 20 games for Tappara of the Finnish elite league, lighting it up with seven goals and ten points.
“It feels good when you’re contributing, and these are the days you live for,” Raymond told The Province. Until Kesler returns, Hansen and Raymond need to keep contributing. And when Kesler returns, their contributions will no doubt still be needed and welcomed.